Multicultural Education: Piecing Together the Puzzle


When a child opens his (or her) first puzzle and the pieces fall to the
ground, it may seem very confusing. What are they to do with this pile of
shapes in front of them? It often takes a parent to explain to them that all
the different pieces fit together into one whole picture. Although every piece
is different and unique, when they are all put into their place they form one
whole picture. In the same way, teachers can teach multiculturalism in the
classroom. Although every member of our society is unique, with different
cultural backgrounds, we all fit together to form one unit. As stated by Noel
(1995), “Understanding our own identity and the culture of our community
requires knowledge and recognition of our cultures and communities and how they
have shaped us” (p. 267). By adding a multicultural component to their
curriculums, teachers can help students see how each individual fits into the
big picture.
There are, however, arguments against multicultural education (Banks,
1995). For example, some critics believe that multicultural education is
directed toward only minority groups, thus discriminating against middle class,
white, heterosexual males. Others believe that multiculturalism is against
Western and democratic ideals. A final argument is the claim that
multiculturalism will divide our presumably united nation. Although critics of
multicultural education may feel they have valid arguments against the issue, I
feel that the goals of multicultural education make it an important part of the
curriculum that every student should experience.
I agree with Wurzel (1988) and Noel (1995) when they stress awareness as
a key component to multiculturalism. Students must become aware of their own
culture and how they are similar and different from others. Awareness also
involves an understanding of issues involving differences in culture and a
knowledge of which of these issues are present in their community. After
becoming aware of these issues, students often react emotionally. With an
awareness of the richness and variety of cultures in their community and a
personal emotional reaction, students can take social action, another goal of
multicultural education (Noel, 1995). Noel says that students would take “
action aimed at positive multicultural change”(p. 272).
I feel that these goals are proof that the arguments against
multicultural education are invalid (Banks, 1995). Multiculturalism promotes
positive change for persons of all cultures. It involves not only teaching
majority groups about minorities, but also teaching minority groups about the
majority groups. It has its base in democratic ideals such as equality,
freedom, and justice. Multiculturalism will unite our divided nation into one
unit which will have no mainstream culture, but many diverse subcultures which
will cooperate for the good of everyone, not just the majority or the minority.
I feel very strongly that multiculturalism should be included in all
curricula. My school experience (until college) didn\'t include multicultural
perspectives and I feel as if I missed out on some important things. I often
feel a little clueless when confronted with situations involving people
different from me. Without some knowledge of our surroundings, how can we be
expected to survive in society? This question reveals one of the purposes of
education, survival. Learning about the other people who share our community is
an essential part of this survival in modern society. Multiculturalism becomes
increasingly important as our society becomes more diverse.
In the past (Lynch, 1989), efforts to provide multicultural content to
students have, as critics feared, created more diversity and tension among
groups. However, more recent methods are aimed at creating relations based on
commonalities. Lynch (1989) suggests providing “a basis of common knowledge,
skills, and insights about the things that all human societies should hold in
common” (p. 43). Stressing similarities will unify groups with differences.
Davidman (1994) defines the goals of multicultural education as:

“(1) educational equity; (2) empowerment of students and their parents; (3)
cultural pluralism in society; (4) ...understanding and harmony in the classroom,
school, and community; (5) an expanded knowledge of various cultural and ethnic
groups; and (6) the development of students, parents, and practitioners...guided
by an informed and inquisitive multicultural perspective” (p.2). Just as the
goals stated by other crusaders for multiculturalism, Davidson\'s goals follow a
specific order and stress knowledge, understanding, and equality.

I believe that it is very necessary and completely conceivable for our
education systems to move toward a multicultural curriculum. By following the
goals I have mentioned, we can finally understand how the many pieces of our
society fit together into one big picture.

References

Banks, J. A.(1995). Multicultural Education: Development, Dimensions,
and Challenges. In Noll, J. W. (Ed.), Taking Sides: Clashing